Former Blackhawk Ben Smith still feeling effects from recent concussion


Former Blackhawk Ben Smith still feeling effects from recent concussion

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Ben Smith didn’t watch much of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup final appearance – he was at the World Championships at the time.

But not long after the Blackhawks won their third Cup last season, a season Smith was a part of before he was traded to the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline, he got a text from Jonathan Toews.

“[Toews] texted me later and said, ‘Hey, you’re a big part of this, too,’” Smith recalled. “It was nice to get that from him.”

Smith would’ve loved to play his former teammates on Wednesday night. But the Sharks forward is recovering from a concussion, sustained when a shot from teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic hit him in the head on Oct. 17 against the New York Islanders. Smith played two games at the end of October but the symptoms soon reappeared, and he’s been sidelined ever since.

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The good news is Smith’s been skating more lately, so he could return soon. Still, Smith knows from previous experience that he has to practice patience with concussions. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

“That’s the hard part: every day you want to wake up and feel great. You want to play,” Smith said. “You’re a competitor; we all are. To take your time – this one’s taking longer than it has in the past, but I’m trying to take it as they tell me, take it day by day. When you consistently start feeling better is when you can start getting on the ice more, and I’ve been able to do that.”

Smith dealt with the same issues back in the fall of 2011, after he took a hit to the head from Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith. It took some time for Smith to recover from that one, too; once he did, he headed to the Rockford IceHogs, where he played most of that season. Smith said it’s the uncertainty of how he feels from day to day is when he has to practice patience the most.

“Every doctor you talk to says it’s so hard to predict what happens. You can feel great for a week, then symptoms come back harder,” Smith said. “You’ve seen guys where they come back months after the injury. They’re hard things to predict. It’s probably the most complicated injury there is in hockey. You’d love to go out there and play with a sprained ankle or a broken arm or whatever, but everyone says, you can’t battle through a concussion.”

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Much like in June, Toews was wishing his former teammate well again on Wednesday.

“He was just a great teammate, a great friend; just a really unselfish, positive guy. Obviously [you] love having guys like that in our locker room,” Toews said. “We felt destined to go where we ended up last year, and it was unfortunate we couldn’t have him along with us. But sometimes that happens. You wish him all the best and hopefully he’s recovering from his current injury.”

Smith didn’t get to face the Blackhawks on Wednesday. But he’s skating more often and feeling better. Hopefully, he’ll put his concussion issues in the past soon.

“There [are] enough studies out there now and you hear enough about it in the news. You want to be careful and you want to be able, later in life, to not look back and point back to the injuries that you sustained while you were playing as the reason you can’t go throw a ball or remember things or do your everyday activities,” Smith said. “Trying to be careful. Obviously I love hockey, I’m going to keep playing hockey and wait till this gets better. I’m going to put my heart and soul into what’s going on here.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?